Simple risk check could save lives

Letter to the Editor from Paul Turner, St Helier.

 (30757319)
(30757319)

WE now have much more to be hopeful for regarding the Covid pandemic, with the leader of the (UK) Office for National Statistics Covid-19 Infection Survey saying that Britain (and by extension us here in Jersey and the other Crown Dependencies) has ‘moved from a pandemic to an endemic situation’, where the virus will circulate at a low and controllable level. And experts now seem to be largely discounting the possibility of a significant ‘third wave’ (in the UK and here) as the final social-distancing restrictions fall away over the next few months, adding that we must remain on watch for new variants and ready (including with booster vaccines no doubt) for a seasonal uptick every autumn and winter.

One of the medical challenges now coming to the fore, as an unfortunate collateral legacy of the pandemic, is that of the ‘missing cancer patients’ – those who have missed out on screening, diagnosis and treatments. In many of its forms, cancer is one of those insidious but potentially lethal diseases which can now often be cured if caught early, but if not still becomes incurable and life-limiting.

Prostate cancer last year became the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the UK and is also now the second most common cause of cancer deaths in the UK, with nearly 12,000 men dying from it there annually. Unfortunately, unlike other cancers, early (and indeed sometimes not so early as I have found out for myself) prostate cancer often has no symptoms.

Prostate Cancer UK says that, because of the impact of the pandemic on society and the healthcare system, more than 8,600 fewer men (in the UK) received treatment for this cancer in 2020 than the previous year. They add that many of these ‘missing men’ could have life-threatening prostate cancer without knowing it and are hoping that they can be found quickly so as to have the best chance of a cure.

Those men potentially at risk from prostate cancer are most generally those aged 50 and above, but in some cases from down to age 40. There is as yet no effective screening for prostate cancer, but a simple initial test – a ‘PSA test’ via a blood sample – can be arranged through one’s GP if appropriate and gives some guide as to any need for further investigation. There is now an extremely simple ‘risk checker’ – intended to help find those ‘missing men’ – available online at prostatecanceruk.org/missingmen. It asks three simple questions and takes about 30 seconds.

I commend this risk checker to those who might be among the ‘missing men’. Failing that, it is a very good idea for men potentially at risk from prostate cancer to raise the possibility of taking a PSA check with their GP anyway.

For more comment, letter and opinion pieces, see today's Jersey Evening Post.

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